Oz Whale Watching
Sydney, New South Whales
Rippling turquoise currents ebb beneath the moving vessel. The motor stops and we bob about on the Tasman Sea. They’re here. People begin lightly tapping the rail of the boat, peaking curiosity. Within minutes, a large body bursts into the salty air creating a pop-up fountain.
I am metres away from two Humpback Whales, who are in cruise control on the open ocean. The Humpbacks are migrating 4,000 nautical miles from the Southern Ocean to the Coral Sea. My aeroplane journey was closer to 400 miles. I feel comparatively lazy.
On board Oz Whale Watching’s Jerry Bailey boat is Sean the Skipper, Biggles our “Whale Tragic” Guide, Alex the Chef and Ryan. The crew set sail and I soak up the Sydney Harbour view. Biggles warns “we only go back for hats and sunglasses with heads still attached to them.” Fair enough. Chef Alex indulges us in a Barbeque Buffet lunch. I peek through the window as he washes dishes. Alex has an enviable view from the ship galley. The city skyline dissolves behind us while spring colours burst brightly against the sun and sea.
My Brother and I are lazily reclining on the lower deck. A spray of salty water sploshes over the side and wets our feet. That got our attention. This must be why the crew advised to bring a raincoat. Waves grow larger as we leave the harbour, “welcome to the Tasman Sea” Biggles says. To find the Whales, the crew rely on combined years of experience and advanced optics technology: “two eyeballs.” Signs are promising, with four other Whale Watching boats nearby.
There is camaraderie amongst the competition, on the sea at least. Operators are passionate about sharing the Whale experience with passengers and help each other. We approach the mighty creatures from the side of the boat. My eyes clock a collection of bubbles on the surface. A vast inky silhouette flashes into viewpoint and disappears just as quickly. Was that my imagination?
We are in the company of two juveniles stretching 10 metres long and weighing 10 tonnes each. Who is watching who? I wonder. I am captive on the luxurious boat while our young Humpback friends glide alongside fascinated. They are familiar with regular operators. “They know the boat and we follow the rules,” Biggles confirms. A word of advice, take a seasick tablet. Sunny on-shore conditions did not hint of what was to come once we reach three miles out at sea. Today is a touch rougher than normal. “How do you get sea legs like that Ryan?” I ask, as I attempt to traverse the vessel in an awkward dance between chairs. “Like what?” he laughs. Fortunately, Whales get more airborne in choppier conditions, today is no exception.
Humpback Whales feed on Krill and fish before fasting for the journey north. As Biggles says, they are migrating on one “blubber-load.” The Whales hitch a ride on ocean currents ensuring they expend the least energy possible. Winter and spring is when Humpbacks give birth and mate while in warmer waters. Biggles calls this their “carousing grounds” with a chuckle.
The Australian Government banned whaling in 1979, enabling the Whale Watching tourist industry to flourish. Humpback Whales are experiencing healthy population growth of 10.9% per year. Oz Whale Watching and Volunteers like Biggles contribute data to National Parks and Wildlife and CSIRO which estimates population growth and size as well as reporting and tracking entanglements.
Returning to Sydney Harbour, Biggles points out Kiribilli House where Australian’ Prime Minister Tony Abbott lives (Not for much longer, thanks to Malcolm Turnbull). Next door, Admiralty House is host to visiting heads of state and dignitaries. The vice regal flag is up, telling us that Governor General Sir Peter Cosgrove is home. “We had a young Pommy regal couple Kate and Bill and their young son George visit last year. There might have been some carousing there because I hear there is another young one, Charlotte now.”
The writer travelled as a guest of Oz Whale Watching. For more information on Oz Whale Watching click here.